Silent-film accompanist Ben Model checks in from the Upper West Side of NYC. We talk about how the pandemic and self-isolation led him and his partner Steve Massa to launch the Silent Comedy Watch Party, a livestream on YouTube that airs every Sunday at 3pm EDT. We also get into the ups and downs of Zoom teaching, the challenges of playing piano for a telepresent audience, how he can’t wait for New Yorkers to get pushy again, and more. Give it a listen! And go check out the Silent Comedy Watch Party livestream & archives!
You can listen to all these COVID Check-In episodes at The COVID-19 Sessions.
About our Guest
Ben Model is one of the nation’s leading silent film accompanists, and performs on both piano and theatre organ. Ben works full-time presenting and accompanying silent films in a wide variety of venues around the US and internationally, carrying on a tradition he learned from silent film organist Lee Erwin (1919-2000).
Over the past 30+ years Ben has created and performed live scores for several hundred silent films, films lasting anywhere from one minute to five hours. Ben is a resident film accompanist at the Museum of Modern Art (NY) and at the Library of Congress’ Packard Campus Theatre, and performs at theatres, museums, schools and other venues around the US and internationally.
His recorded scores can be heard on numerous DVD/Blu-Ray releases, on TCM and on his YouTube channel. His indie DVD label Undercrank Productions has released several discs of rare/lost silent films, including films preserved by the Library of Congress.
Ben is a regular accompanist at classic film festivals around the U.S.A. and internationally, and performs at universities, museums, and historic theaters. Ben is the producer and co-founder of The Silent Clowns Film Series, now in its 21st season in NYC. Ben has composed film scores for both orchestra and concert band for accompaniment to films by Chaplin and Keaton. These scores are performed around the U.S. every year by professional and school ensembles.
As a film programmer, Ben has co-curated film series for The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and co-programs a monthly silent film series at the Cinema Arts Center. As the archivist of the Ernie Kovacs/Edie Adams collection, he has curated two recent DVD box sets of Ernie Kovacs television shows for Shout! Factory, and was instrumental in the Library of Congress’ acquisition of the Kovacs film and videotape elements for preservation in 2015.
Ben is a Visiting Professor of Film Studies at Wesleyan University.
Credits: The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Ben by his wife, Mana Allen, but it’s on my instagram.